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Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation 2017

Muirhead Tower, University of Birmingham
Monday 27 March (09:00) - Friday 31 March 2017 (18:00)

Please note that bookings have now closed for the 2017 programme. If you would like to be placed on the reserve list should there be any cancellations, please email Jill Williams at

A 5-day professional training programme on the role of mediation in managing and transforming political conflicts. Through specialist lectures, small group role plays and practical simulation games, participants will consider:

  • How can individuals and societies transcend the historical memory of ethnic conflict and injustice?
  • How can fragile peace agreements be implemented in communities torn apart by civil war?
  • What methods and strategies are used by mediators and negotiators at local and regional levels?
  • How can these be applied to international conflicts?


The training is run by the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security, a world-leading interdisciplinary research centre working at the cutting edge of Political Psychology, International Relations, and Security Studies.

Who is it for?

  • Undergraduates and post-graduates with interests in International Relations and security studies
  • Early career researchers with specialist interests in peace-building and conflict transformation
  • Early career practitioners with interests in the practical applications of mediation, negotiation, and diplomacy

How will I benefit?

  • Practical training in communication and mediation skills
  • Specialist lectures by internationally-recognised academics
  • Networking with experienced practitioners
  • Professional development through a Harvard negotiation simulation

Programme: Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation programme 2017 (PDF 138KB)


Introduction to trust-building

Professor Nicholas J Wheeler (Director, Institute for Conflict Cooperation and Security)
An overview of the role of trust in International Relations, using a number of key historical and contemporary case studies.

Emotional decision-making in crisis and conflict

Dr Tereza Capelos (University of Birmingham)
Examining how emotions facilitate information searching, promote civic engagement, stimulate fight and fright responses, determine policy preferences, and provoke engagement or disengagement with members of in-groups and outgroups. Participants will engage with the concepts of emotion appraisal and regulation, and apply these insights to understanding the role of emotions in crises and conflicts.         

Dialogue across cultures

Professor David H Dunn (University of Birmingham)
Because most scholarship on diplomacy and negotiation is written by Americans about Americans, there is often an assumption that all international dialogue is the same, and that negotiation in particular follows a universal pattern towards either agreement or stalemate.  By contrast this session explores the influence of culture on diplomacy. Drawing largely on the work of Raymond Cohn, it explores how mis-communication can occur through cultural dissonance, demonstrating the importance of learning foreign cultures as well as foreign languages.      

Communication Skills and Mediation Training

Joan McGregor (Independent Conflict Transformation Consultant)         
Putting theory into practice with two days of dedicated mediation training. Participants will take part in role plays and mediation exercises drawn from real life examples of conflict situations.  Short exercises are based on community conflicts from Nigeria and South Sudan, with a longer simulation based on a situation in Myanmar.

Keynote Lecture: What is diplomacy, and why?

Alan Charlton CMG CVO (Former UK Ambassador to Brazil)
The keynote will address the nature of diplomacy, its development, its variation under pressure of crisis, and its underpinning by political and negotiating skills. Alan Charlton will give examples from his experience as a British diplomat. He will argue that in the world of today and tomorrow with vast possibilities for the computer collection and analysis of information, inter-personal diplomacy will remain key to achieving goals in the conduct of international relations.            

When there is no trust (yet): the role of guarantees in mediation

Professor Stefan Wolff (University of Birmingham)
While it is generally acknowledged that trust is a critical component in sustaining mediation processes and their outcomes, it is not always present at the beginning nor can it always be established quickly. In such cases, mediators need to think creatively about how to build confidence between negotiators as a first step towards trust and how guarantees of the mediation process or its outcomes can bridge gaps in trust. Drawing on his practical mediation support experience, Stefan Wolff will introduce participants to the notion of guarantees in conflict settlements and settlement negotiations and how to operationalise them as part of designing negotiation processes and conflict settlements.       

The role of empathy in mediation

Dr Naomi Head (University of Glasgow)
What are the theoretical and practical challenges to developing empathy in deeply adversarial contexts? Examples drawn from recent work in Israel and Palestine.             

Simulation: The Future of Hebron

A one and a half day simulation game exploring the deteriorating relations in Hebron. Participants will assume different roles across the divide in order to negotiate a complex set of agreements involving land rights, security frameworks, and border controls.

Webpage: Trust, Diplomacy and Conflict Transformation
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